Expertise and experience:
1. Advising and mentoring Amherst College students and young alumni who seek to explore and pursue careers in health.
2. Teaching (until December 2010 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and as adjunct lecturer at UMassAmherst School of Public Health), mentoring, advising, dialogue, organizing, advocating, and experience to learn, practice, and pursue health in all its dimesnions. Has included courses on health disparities, and cultural and linguistic competence,
internships, independent study, research, seminars to build leadership capacity of young people and future public health work force.
Synthesizing research on social determinants of health, resilience, traumatic childhood experiences, racism, chronic stress, and conditions for productive dialogue that will have a significant impact on future public health practice.
3. Translating this research into humane MCH and public health practice to improve the health of women and children, with systems that honor families, communities, and cultures.
4. Integrating cultural understanding and respect as a key strategy to end health disparities.
5. Changing the language of public health and medicine to better reflect our ideals and purpose.
6. Bringing multiple stakeholders together to untangle complex public health challenges and take collaborative action to solve them.

1. Inspiring a new generation of leaders in public health and service through a wide range of local, national, and global opportunities.
Until January 2011, consultation to individuals, communities, organizations to build capacity in the above, by
a) Inspiring keynotes, presentations, workshops.
b) Organizing forums to build essential but previously unlikely partnerships.
c) Serving as catalyst for intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue.
c) Writing papers and grants.
3. Organization and facilitation of interactive meetings with broad stakeholder participation to unite diverse parties and spark action to create public health equity.

For more information, contact:

"A smile is the light in the window of your face, which tells people that your heart is at home."
- Kolawole Bankole, M.D, M.S

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amherst College and Humane Worlds Connections

Amherst College's Citizen Summer Program

Another really great partnership between Amherst and the Humane Worlds Center has been established through the Community Engagement Center this summer. They have started a new program called the Citizen Summer Program, which is supporting and encouraging students to engage in public service work. Around 200 students are being sponsored this year to be able to participate in internships across the globe. These students are working locally, regionally, nationally, and globally with non-profit organizations. In the spirit of Terras Irradient, this opportunity allows students to not only make a difference in the world but let the world have a large impact on them.

It was through this program, Richard Aronson '69 and I (Jodie Simms '09) were able to meet and work together this summer, along with another great Amherst student, Chenlan Bao '11. Together, we have worked this summer to try and help build the foundations of the center from Richard's initial vision. Since the Humane Worlds Center is focused on promoting public service and leadership in youth, this connection between the college and the center is a very valuable one which will hopefully continue and grow into the future.

Personal/Reflective Note:

----From my prespective, as a student intern, I am overwhelmed with how incredible an experience this internship has been. I am learning more than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time and I am meeting absolutely amazing and truly inspiring individuals who are in the business of community building and making the future brighter for all. Learning from these sort of real-life applications and mentors in my field of interest are exactly what I need at this point in my life. I am looking forward to continuing this work, supporting the Humane Worlds Center throughout my life, and watching it grow. As well as bringing back everything I've learned to share with the Amherst community, in my last year.

Thanks to all the individuals who I've met along the way...


Friday, July 25, 2008

Research Foundations for Humane Worlds Center

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

Creating equity and ending health disparities in Maternal and Child Health will require a radical strengthening of our capacity for interactive and participatory leadership. Such leadership is needed to reverse longstanding injustice. Such an effort is neither easy nor comfortable. It is a long-term process that challenges individual and organizational biases, promotes opportunities for shared learning, and includes all who have a stake in the outcome. The Humane Worlds Center seeks to develop such leadership, especially among those aspiring to public health and service.

The Center draws on eight bodies of research that are coalescing to form the foundation for the practice of such leadership. They are:

1. Life Course Perspective for Maternal and Child Health
2. Stress and Biology
3.Early brain development
4.Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
5.Racism and Race as an Independent Stressor

7. Conditions for productive dialogue and action

8. Social Connectedness

An overview of these eight bodies of research and a review of promising practices to reduce birth outcome disparities was part of a 2008 paper written for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Partnership Program.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amherst College Humane Worlds Center Connections

On October 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave a remarkable address at a special Convocation as part of the ground breaking ceremonies for the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachussetts, USA. In his remarks, President Kennedy said, “Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility.”

From the light of that autumn day, I am honored and humbled to serve as the Director of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health. We are a member of the Future Search Network. I view this Center as an opportunity as a way to carry on Amherst’s commitment to its historic mission, Terras Irradient, and to carry out the legacy, challenge, and hope that President Kennedy posed to the Amherst community 45 years ago. I have tried, humbly, to always be in a learning Terras Irradient mode in partnership with communities to untangle the complex tough roots that underlie public health disparities - social injustice and inequities. I have learned, taught, and practiced service that is highly collaborative, honors all voices, celebrates diversity, discovers common ground, and inspires people to realize their deepest aspirations. In 1993, I discovered the remarkable alignment between these ideals and the principles and methods of Future Search, and since then have sought to bring the two together in practice.

Through this service, I have discovered common threads that unite people from all walks of life and, at the same time, respect their uniqueness. I continue to learn how to serve in ways that bring out the best in people and tap into the capacity of our species for creativity, healing, and cooperating for the common good.

Much of the vision and practical action that forms the foundation for the Humane Worlds Center has its roots from my Amherst undergraduate years, and more recently the Class of 1969 Project led by Justin Grimes. At Amherst, I had the privilege to organize and lead Amherst Amigos, a Peace Corps-like project in which teams of students lived and worked in rural Mexican villages. I became active in the Mount Toby Friends Meeting, took part in the Amherst Peace Vigil, and tutored students in Easthampton. For the summer after graduation, I was among the first group of counselors for the the then brand new Amherst ABC Project, whose rich legacy at the College and in the Town continues to this day.

At its best, Amherst College uniquely inspires its students to enlighten and change the world. At its best, Amherst nurtures a passion to live and work for the common good and, through community, to keep hope alive. The final verse of the “Hymn to Amherst” has always touched me to the core:

“In the love of Amherst hearts abides her greatest glory,
As the future still imparts the old unchanging story,
Youth and beauty, learning, faith,
Bound by friendship’s charter,
To the College we have made with eye and mind and heart.”

How this small college, in a once remote New England town, uniquely has the capacity to produce men and women of conscience and ideals is both mysterious and purposeful, a tribute to the vision of its founders and those who followed. I rejoice in this capacity.

Through the Humane Worlds Center, building on the successful record of Future Search and drawing from eight bodies of research, we strive to inspire a new generation of leaders in public health and service throughout the world. The Center works with partners, from private and public sectors, including Amherst through the Center for Community Engagement, to improve the health of women and children. We hope to provide students with opportunities to grow as leaders who will do no less than change the world. We intend to foster conditions and opportunities for idealism without illusion to thrive.

As a Religion Major at Amherst, I studied the theologian, Paul Tillich, and came across a passage that has stayed with me ever since. “He who risks and fails,” Tillich wrote, “can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.” People with the courage to confront injustice are risk takers. Amherst, at its best, encourages its students to take risks, and to challenge the status quo, not only in the external world but also within ourselves. The Humane Worls Center supports such courage and seeks to enable it to grow. At Amherst, we learn to question, probe, and engage in a lifelong search for authenticity and hope, all of which are key to a healthy mind, body, and spirit. With a combination of thoughtful, passionate, and practical idealism topped off by a healthy dose of humor, we embrace Amherst in embracing the Center and the quest for such health.

Terras Irradient,

Dick Aronson, Amherst Class of 1969

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Humane Worlds Center Origins

For many years I have practiced a form of participative planning and leadership uniquely suited to the task of making the world a better place for women and children. In the course of doing this work, I have discovered common threads that unite people from all walks of life. I’ve seen people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives – such as social workers, physicians, nurses, child care specialists, teachers, clergy, government officials, employers, youth, and families - come together, plan, and carry out extraordinary action steps to heal themselves and their communities. This form of leadership, which we intend to bring to a new generation of leaders, is at the heart of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health.

From this work I became convinced that we all hunger for a world where dignity and respect prevail for everyone. Instead of systems that pathologize, stereotype, and lump children and families into a dizzying array of risks, diseases, and disorders, we aspire to humane practices that honor all people. Our species, when provided the right conditions, has a remarkable capacity for creativity, healing, and cooperating for the common good.

From 1991 through 2007, as a senior public health executive in the States of Wisconsin and Maine, I sought to mobilize people to improve the health of mothers, children, and families. The purpose of public health, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is to fulfill society’s interest in fostering the conditions under which all people can be healthy. Public health seeks to assure that all people have the opportunity to fulfill their potential to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. A central commitment of public health is to end health inequalities and protect human dignity and rights. Maternal and Child Health (MCH) seeks exactly the same goals. We work to create sustainable systems and services to enable families and communities provide children with the care, love, dignity, and respect that they need.

We are now creating a new entity to bring together in a shared task of societal change people throughout the world who share commitment to this sector, and to young people who seek a home to nurture and make real their ideals for service. Humane Worlds for Maternal and Child Health is a new Global Center of the Future Search Network ( It is intended to bring the loftiest vision of public health into the lives of children and families everywhere. It is our aim to equip families, communities, and society with tools to create the conditions under which all children have the opportunity to survive and thrive. We will do this in a focused, persistent, and empowering way (Future Search) that has been successful worldwide, and brought about long term changes with relatively modest investments.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Humane Systems for Early Childhood in Maine

Much of the philosophy and approach of the Humane Worlds Center grew out of the work done in Maine to promote humane systems for early childhood. Today we took part in the monthly meeting of the Governor's Early Childhood Task Force, chaired by First Lady Karen Baldacci and facilitated by Sheryl Peavey, who directs the Early Childhood Initiative. See the excellent website that Sheryl created and that reflects the commitment and team work of many people in Maine from diverse sectors. A Future Search Conference on Early Childhood in Maine, held in Hallowell, Maine, in January 2005, played an important role in defining the state's current plan and action.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Potential Future Search Conference in South Africa!

Notes from our first conference call:

Monday, June 30, 2008
90 minute call, 20 participants from around the world, including 3 in South Africa, a participant from the Netherlands, Canada and all over the US. Participants also included 4 students from Amherst College and professionals in a wide range of fields including physicians and consultants.

Purpose of Call:
Start to explore in a broad way the possibility of a Future Search Conference in South Africa on Maternal and Child Health in 2010 or 2011. The Future Search Conference, and the planning that leads up to it, would help lay the foundation and plant the seeds for Humane Worlds for Child Health: A New Global Center of the Future Search Network (FSN). It would build on the inspiring Future Search Network (FSN) Learning Exchange that took place in Johannesburg in November 2007, graciously hosted by Dumisani Ncala, John Goss, Tamara Sutila, and Aria Merkestein, Also, today’s call will explore the potential for youth and young people to play an important role in developing and planning for this conference, as well as in other activities of the Center.

Humane Worlds would like to explore with our South African colleagues, friends, and partners the potential for a Future Search Conference there in 2010 or 2011 to bring diverse groups together to focus on Maternal and Child Health and to set a long-term direction for the Center. All of this is in a preliminary explorative phase.

1 Welcome and Introductions
2 Mission and Vision of the HWC and the Future Search Network
3 Brief Introduction to Future Search Methods and Principles
4 Connections with Amherst College : Summer Internship Program of the Amherst Center for Community Engagement, Dream for Democracy , Class of 1969 Project .
5 Connections with South Africa: Future Search Network , Cotlands Project, Dream for Democracy, Global Camps Africa, others.
6 Dialogue on a Future Search Conference in South Africa on MCH and the future of the Humane Worlds Center: Initial thoughts, ideas, dreams, issues, complexities.
7 Next steps: What actions and further conversations are needed to proceed? Who else to include? Further information needed? When to reconvene?
8 Close: Feel free to briefly share learning or impression from today, and how you would like to be further involved. Or feel free to take some time and get back to me. Please send your full contact information

Key Points from the Call:
  • We should be sure to include and not duplicate the vast efforts which are all ready underway in South Africa.
  • Identifying a diverse group of stakeholders and participants with primary leadership in South Africa will be one of the most important steps in the planning process.
  • It is important that everyone is in the room and everyone has their voices heard throughout the process of planning and beyond.
  • We should be careful not to go into this effort with the attitude of "helping" people. We need to be open to learning from each other.
  • Building a grassroots level organization is paramount.
  • The Learning Exchange in 2007 which took place in Johannesburg, inspired continuous work in community based projects.
  • Dream for Democracy: Started in October 2007 by 3 Amherst College students. Focus on citizen and civic engagement, open dialogues about democracy through the power of students’ debate and discussion. Works to educate, engage, and empower youth.
  • Cotlands: A children's home in 3 different locations of South Africa. The only hospice for children born with HIV/AIDS.
  • Global Camps Africa: Summer camps for children and youth. A successful program seen as a vehicle for social change, especially changing attitudes towards HIV/AIDS.
  • Important to connect with students, especially at the universities in South Africa
  • Funding and developing a planning committee need to be addressed.
Overall it a really great first meeting. Thank you to all who participated!

Next meeting will be scheduled by Dick for the coming months...



The Center has a strong connection with the Future Search Network (FSN), which strongly supports and is fully committed to its long-term success. The Network was founded in 1993 by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff as an international non-profit program of Resources for Human Development, Incorporated (RHD). RHD is a large (501) (C) (3) human services umbrella organization based in Philadelphia, USA. FSN delivers uniquely innovative and effective planning services around the world in any culture, in any language, for whatever people can afford. Its 350 volunteers work on everything from community development, education, health care, employment, housing, and youth issues, to sustainability in business firms and communities. The Network runs hundreds of conferences for communities, schools, hospitals, and non-profits and has a notable track record in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, India, and North and South America.

Future Search Network also has worked with the United Nations Development Program on disaster risk reduction and with UNICEF in many countries on improving the lives of children, notably in the Southern Sudan where it helped to free thousands of children from involuntary soldiering, and in Indonesia where it helped to decentralize a bureaucratic school system. The three day Future Search conferences have led to years of ongoing collaboration, way beyond what people expect from a single meeting (Weisbord M, Janoff S, Future Search, 2000; Weisbord M, Janoff S, Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There, 2007; Schweitz R, Martens K, Future Search in School District Change, 2006; Weisbord M, Productive Workplaces Revisited, 2004).

Successful Record

Successful Record

The Center builds on the 20 year record of positive results from Future Search planning meetings held around the world, facilitated by Future Search Network members (there are 350), and documented in many books and articles. Here are a few examples:

1) Collaboration between tribal chiefs and military leadership led to the demobilization of 2,500 Southern Sudanese child soldiers.

2) The combined energy of residents from seven Hawaiian towns, once alienated from one another, became committed to building and sustaining a healthy community in body, mind, and spirit.

3) A new dedicated revenue stream of $50 million per year for the City of Seattle, Washington, emerged from a 2020 Vision Campaign to Meet Basic Human Needs by 2020 and Eliminate Institutional Racism; and the woman who led the Campaign received the 2008 Leadership Legacy Award from the Center for Ethical Leadership.

4) Statewide awareness of the human and financial benefits of investing early in pregnant women and young children became a cultural norm in Maine, supported by the Governor and Attorney General.

5) Over a period of nine years, new partnerships linking community leaders, families, state and local public health, and health care systems set the stage for a commitment of public and political will to reduce black infant mortality in Wisconsin, where African American babies are four times more likely than white babies to die in the first year of life.

6) In Bolton, United Kingdom, children became increasingly involved as an integral component of the City’s School Community efforts to make “Every Child Matters” a reality.

7) New funds were leveraged for parenting education and child care in New Mexico.

8) A plan for health coverage for all people in Vermont was signed into law in 2006.

9) The Nevada Public Health Foundation was established.

10) The Colorado River Headwater Forum, a non-profit organization of diverse stakeholders formed from a Future Search in 1991 (documented in Discovering Common Ground). This group cooperatively developed a Water Quality Plan approved by the state of Colorado and continues to meet and work together on issues that matter to them, despite their history of law suits and contentiousness.

11) The Ute Mountain Ute Reservation’s Future Search included a shared vision of a youth center with tutoring and other services and activities for the youth on this Indian reservation. A summer visitor subsequently procured a 5-year grant of $10 million from the U.S. Department of Labor, and the vision became a reality.

12) Long festering racial tensions in Berrien County, Michigan, transformed into economic development to attract new businesses and open affordable housing.

13) Improvements in water quality occurred in Pakistan.

14) Credit cards were introduced into Eastern Europe.

15) Coalitions formed to address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Funding and Activities of the Center

Funding and Activities of the Center

The activities of the Center for the next three years (July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2011), are to:

1. Plan, implement, and conduct follow up on two Global Future Search Conferences to be held in 2010 or 2011: one in the United States and one in South Africa. The purpose of these Future Search Conferences is to plan and set in motion action on the Center’s long-term future and sustainability. Thus, the development of the Center itself will be in alignment with our core values and with the Principles and Methodology of Future Search.

2. Hire 3.0 Full Time Equivalent Center Staff to carry out the initial work to lead, organize, manage, and coordinate the Center in its three core functions of service, teaching, and research.

3. Establish a global data base of MCH related Future Search Conferences and their outcomes,

4. Recruit an Advisory Committee,

5. Form deep partnerships with and among diverse people and organizations whose involvement in the Center is essential,

6. Provide internships throughout the year to undergraduate and graduate students.

7. Develop and pilot an experiential curriculum for students at Amherst College and other colleges and universities.

8. Secure funding.

We expect that with this three year effort, the energy and commitment to leverage long-term funding sources will enable the Center to sustain itself across generations.

Functions of the Center


We embody service, teaching, and research. Our intention is weave leadership development into all aspects of these functions:


1) Outreach and training to communities, organizations, and other entities that seek innovative participatory approaches to address seemingly intransient health disparities.

2) In-depth help to communities in planning and facilitating Future Search Conferences.

3) Comprehensive consultation to all groups and individuals who are seeking to deepen their leadership for creating health equity for the MCH population.


1) Serve as a teaching and learning resource for communities to develop their skills in applying the Center’s Core Values and Principles to the tough and complex issues of health inequity affecting their children and families.

2) Starting with a partnership with Amherst College’s Center for Community Engagement in 2008, provide students in higher education throughout the world with individual and group opportunities to take part in experiential learning to equip them with lifelong tools to use in public service leadership of any kind.


The Center is a learning laboratory. We view all of our actions as opportunities for learning. We documenting program outcomes and evaluating effectiveness. We contribute to the knowledge base for strategies that work. To ensure increasingly effective practice, we build quality assurance development into our work.



We serve as a global service, learning, and research center for creating humane and equitable systems for children and youth. To do this, we draw on Future Search, a planning and leadership method, which has been used with notable success in many of the world’s cultures. We use Future Search principles and meetings to unite people from all walks of life. We give them opportunity and voice in shaping humane systems. We lay the foundation for action to mobilize communities to face MCH challenges. What differentiates Future Search from most strategic planning methods are its four principles, synthesized by Weisbord and Janoff from 75 years of social science research:

  • Get the “whole system” in the room—those with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need—all in the same conversation.
  • Explore the whole before seeking to fix any part. Each person has a part of the whole. When all stakeholders have the chance to put in what they know, each has a picture that none had coming in, and they can plan together in a shared context.
  • Put common ground and future action front and center. Problems and conflicts become information to be shared, not action items.
  • Set up meetings so people can do the work for themselves. With self-management and personal responsibility encouraged, groups are capable of doing much more than they are usually asked to do.

Core Values

Core Values

We embrace the following core values:

  • Honor the dignity of all children and families, and of their cultures.
  • Consider everyone an “expert” on their own experience.
  • Include youth, families, and communities as equal partners at all times.
  • Communicate with clear, non-jargon, non-acronym, and non-bureaucratic language.
  • Draw on peoples’ strengths, resilience, and resources.
  • Use data in an accurate way that is faithful to the art and science of public health.
  • Build public and political will for action.
  • Move from a paradigm of “eliminating disparities” to one of creating equity, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, geography, and nationality.
  • Recognize that behind every statistic and risk factor is a real human being with all the complexity, vulnerability, magnificence, and potential for good that is in each of us.
  • Stay relationship-centered. Encourage networks of social connectedness in promoting health and justice.

Vision and Goals


Our vision is to bring the highest ideals of public health into the lives of children and families everywhere and to improve their health by:

1) Humanizing the worlds that they experience;

2) Changing how we think about public health to embrace every facet of their lives;

3) Creating forums for dialogue that lead to effective action on global health inequities; and

4) Educating and inspiring a new generation of public service leaders to carry on this work in the long term.


We seek to

1) Create equity and end MCH disparities by radical strengthening of the capacity of all concerned parties for participatory leadership.

2) Involve young people in all aspects of our operation, so as to educate and inspire new leadership in public health.

3) Set foundations for societal changes to make equity and justice in MCH a reality.

4) Challenge individual and organizational biases.

5) Respect all voices, including those historically marginalized.

6) Promote opportunities for shared learning.

Background and Purpose of the Center


Those of us invested in public health face global challenges in dealing with maternal and infant mortality, violence in all forms, obesity, mental illness, and other issues. Our objective is to create a world more humane and equitable for women and children. To make progress, we need broad participation of many stakeholders, which requires new forms of leadership. The Center for Humane Worlds (CHW) for Maternal and Child Health (MCH) intends to provide that leadership. The Center delivers collaborative planning services to people everywhere who care about future generations. It provides educational opportunities to those who want to learn and practice such leadership. Our method of choice is Future Search which has been used worldwide for 25 years to stimulate unprecedented action.

By this means we seek to unite stakeholders and serve as a catalyst for essential but previously unlikely partnerships. Our intention is to enable people to discover common ground for action that they did not realize they shared. Such discovery can lay the foundation for leadership needed to bring dignity, hope, and equity to women and children. We seek to move away from systems that thrive on pathology, medical diagnosis, and risk reduction. Instead, we envision systems that derive their power from resilience, trust, and community. Our species has a remarkable capacity for healing and cooperating for the common good. The purpose of CHW is to mobilize that capacity. In so doing, we equip a new generation of leaders with lifelong tools to actualize their ideals.

Public Health

Our purpose in public health, defined by the USA Institute of Medicine and World Health Organization, is to foster conditions that assure optimal health in mind, body, and spirit. We commit to ending health inequities and protecting human dignity. In MCH, we seek to change social conditions so that children experience humane worlds. Such worlds help meet basic needs and support their safety and well being.

Welcome To Our Site

Hello World!
Welcome to the new Humane Worlds Center blog site!
Our hope is to create a space which will be updated regularly as the Center grows so that you can be aware of the center's ongoing work towards improving conditions for children to thrive in mind, body and spirit.

This site is meant to be a space for people to learn more about us, figure out how to get involved, and we hope for it to also be a space for open dialogue.

We would love your feed back!
To contact the director of the center, Dick Aronson, or his summer intern from Amherst College, Jodie Simms, please send an email to